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This blog post is the fourth in a series of pieces around data visualisation that will be shared on the SAGE Campus blog throughout May. They have been created by Andy Kirk, a UK-based data visualisation specialist, design consultant, training provider, lecturer, author, speaker, researcher,  editor of an award-winning website, and course instructor on Introduction to Data Visualisation

Every week in May we will be sharing Andy’s observations from his 'little’ of visualisation design blog series. This week’s post covers clever approaches to axis. Stay tuned throughout May for further posts on photo-imagery.


This is part of a series of posts about the 'little of visualisation design', respecting the small decisions that make a big difference towards the good and bad of this discipline. In each post I'm going to focus on just one small matter - a singular good or bad design choice - as demonstrated by a sample project. Each project may have many effective and ineffective aspects, but I'm just commenting on one.
Andy Kirk

The projects that are the focus of this post demonstrate clever approaches to axis, and come from the Washington Post, the New York Times and Sports TV coverage.

LOCATING Y-AXIS LABELS

The project in focus here comes from the Washington Post, titled 'How terrorism in the West compares to terrorism everywhere else' by Lazaro Gamio and Tim Meko, putting into context the relative levels of terrorist-related deaths in the West. The y-axis levels sit within the chart, creating a novel approach not usually seen.

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CLEVER AXIS-SCALING

By effectively setting the y-axis maximum range to 50 notice how the recent increase in incidents of violence against refugees becomes even more striking, as the line climbs up to the height of 76, far beyond the height of the chart and almost intruding on the map area. An example of a subtle but smart editorial design decision.

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SENSIBLE AXIS INTERVALS

The graphic in focus is taken from a screen shot of BT Sports (UK) TV coverage of the Australia vs. England 1-day cricket match. This chart shows the cumulative progress of run scoring for each team across the 50-overs that each team bats for. The chart helps to show whether Australia appear to be on track for victory or otherwise given England's rate of run scoring. My issue with this chart's design concerns the y-axis scale intervals that use units of 70 runs.

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Read the next post in this series on photo-imagery!


Andy Kirk's Introduction to Data Visualisation course
starts October 29th. 
Find out more and enroll today